A narrative interview’s aim is to gather data on an individual’s particular experiences by asking them questions that will enable them to share their experiences in some sort of story form. By story, it doesn’t mean it’s fictional, but it has a clear beginning, middle and end. The interview will ask a question that will allow the respondent to share their views in a free format.

Examples of questions could be “Please tell me about your time here at Saint Maur International School. From your first day until the present time.”

Participants won’t answer every detail, but will naturally form their responses to fit some sort of narrative structure.

The narrative interview has four phases (presentation; main narrative; questioning phase; small talk).

They reduce the interference of the researcher on the participant.

It is believed that people build their schema of the world by the stories they tell, listen to and read. It’s through these stories that people make sense of what is happening around them. Therefore, people will naturally communicate their experiences of the world (it is believed) through their own narratives, so questions should be asked that enable them to do this.

The purpose is to see how people order the events and experiences of their life to give them meaning.


  • It can be used to investigate how people interpret their own individual experiences in relation to the broader social and cultural context. This is because their experiences would have been shaped to fit schema which have been accumulated through their social and cultural experiences.
  • They can be used with all people because they can talk freely.
  • It results in an enormous amount of data and it can be time consuming to collect and analyse it.
  • The amount and quality of data will vary depending on the verbal qualities of the participant.
  • On the other hand, it might not offer much data if the person is unwilling to speak. This may happen if they’re not comfortable with the researcher or being tape recorded.